Taxation in American States and Cities

By Richard T. Ely | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II.
TAXATION OF REAL ESTATE.

THE basis of every system of taxation muse be the taxation of real estate, and that for several obvious reasons: First, in all ages past, real estate has been the chief source of wealth, and great fortunes and special privileges have been derived from its possession. The foundation of an aristocratic class has ever been large landed possessions. Land and its improvements have then been the chief part of all historical systems of taxation, because, until a comparatively recent period, there has been little else to tax.1

The taxation of land has, then, become part and parcel of the legal and economic traditions of all modern nations, and we have adjusted ourselves to this fact.

It has been said by a French writer, with whom the founders of this republic were not entirely unfamiliar -- Canard, I mean -- that "every old tax is a good tax, and every new tax is a bad one." The kernel of truth in this highly exaggerated principle will be found specially applicable to the taxation of land.

When the tax on the value of land is liable to compara-

____________________
1
"During the greater part of the world's history the rent of land has been the chief source of saving. A good deal is saved from rent in England now, and in the rest of the world probably more is saved from it than from profits on capital." -- Marshall's Economics of Industry, page 39.

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